Native Feminisms: Legacies, Interventions, and Indigenous Sovereignties
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Native Feminisms:
Legacies, Interventions, and Indigenous Sovereignties

We are very pleased to play a part in critical interventions happening in the study of Native women’s lives and historical experiences. As Native feminists who met through various forums—at conferences where we shared our interest and passion in issues of Indigenous nations, gender, and colonialism; at work sessions organized by our colleagues; and in conversations over the phone and by e-mail—we came to see a commonality of commitment amongst ourselves, and one of the outcomes, although certainly not the only one, is this fine collection of essays devoted to illuminating the workings of colonialism within our respective Native nations and communities and to reclaiming traditional values as the foundation for our lives and communities. In order to decolonize, we must critically assess our present state and name the reasons that Native peoples continue to live at the margins of the American nation’s imagination and we must account for the state of our homelands, for wherever we live and travel—as Mishuana Goeman (Seneca) points out, the entire Americas are our homelands, urban and rural spaces and Native nations—we experience, still, the consequences of colonialism. The structures of our lives as Native women and men are shaped by racism, sexism, and discrimination. We strive to [End Page 9] recover our former selves and push toward creating better future selves by reclaiming Native values, which have seen us through multiple traumas, including land dispossession and the loss of our freedoms.

Native feminism is a much-debated term. The term, and the histories and fields of thought it implies, are fraught with all the complexities that result from colonial histories. Feminism is long held to be in purview of white rule, according to much literature on Native women and feminism. It is long believed to be a European invention or, much worse, a colonial imposition that sought to destroy tribal ways of life. However, J. Kehaulani Kauanui and Andrea Smith have interceded in these discourses, claiming that a monolithic approach to a Native feminism is not possible and that the false dichotomy of feminist and nonfeminist is oversimplified and undermines Native women’s approaches to decolonization. They state that “the very simplified manner in which Native women’s activism is theorized has made it difficult to articulate political and scholarly projects that simultaneously address sexism and promote indigenous sovereignty.”1 In order to be useful, we must acknowledge some strains of liberal-feminist thought that continue to contain racial hierarchies and imperial intent. While acknowledging these strains of feminism that work at odds with Indigenous sovereignties and understanding the debates among Native women about the usefulness of the term and its application to our intellectual labors and applications to our Native nations and communities, we affirm the usefulness of a Native feminism’s analysis and, indeed, declare that Native feminist analysis is crucial if we are determined to decolonize as Native peoples. As these essays demonstrate, for Native women there is no one definition of Native feminism; rather, there are multiple definitions and layers of what it means to do Native feminist analysis. However, as Native feminists, our dreams and goals overlap; we desire to open up spaces where generations of colonialism have silenced Native peoples about the status of their women and about the intersections of power and domination that have also shaped Native nations and gender relations. We rely on still developing frameworks for Native feminisms to examine and reflect upon the reverberations in our Native homelands. Many of the authors in this book at one time or another have been set with “dis-ease” with liberal-feminist forms of thought. Fomenting Native feminisms that intercede in these discourses is necessary; however, as gender conceptions continue to underpin and affirm the U.S. nation-state and its global imperial power, as Lisa Kahaleole Hall points to in her essay as she complicates the notion that feminism is white. In this edition, and in much of the work of those who are striving to claim Native feminisms, this is a history that must not be ignored or erased but...